#2 problem when converting a house into a clinic: Obtaining a building permit
The second biggest problem with converting a house to a GP/physio/dentist clinic is obtaining a building permit.
The building permit needs to be able to demonstrate that you can achieve disability access through all doors. This means that the width of all doors must be 850mm clear and have a clear latch side of 530mm to allow for approach and departure for someone in a wheelchair. On the hinge side of the door, there must be 110mm to allow the door to fully swing out of the line to enable a clear path.
We also need to be able to achieve disability accessible toilets to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. They occupy a lot of space, as they need to allow easy transfer and operation by someone who’s wheelchair bound.
The building permit also needs to address the car parking allowances for practitioner numbers and pedestrian access to the entry into the building.
Another topic that comes up is the floor strength. A house with a timber and stump floor will have a strength of 1.5KPA, which is all it needs to hold the normal loading of a house. However, when you convert it to commercial use, it needs to be a full strength of 3 KPA. Any key point load area such as where a dentist chair, heavy equipment or filing room is placed, the subfloor and top layer needs to be stiffened to meet the 3KPA criteria and get a confirming engineering report.
One often debated regulation is electrical requirements. For a medical clinic of any kind, even something like a chiropractor who doesn’t use electrical equipment, requires body protected circuits for each room. This means each room has its own switchboard near the door, meaning the electrical residual-current device safety switch is super-fast acting. Each room has a sticker which must be signed off and certified by an independent electrical inspector. Regardless of what anyone tells you, you must have this for building permit.
You must also consider is paths of travel. Passageways that are 1.5m wide, which most houses don’t have. The doorways have to comply with the aforementioned 850/550/110mm measurements. There are some exemptions where the passageway can reduce to 1250mm. This all needs to be addressed within the building permit application.
Fire egress also needs to be addressed. The doors need to be swinging outwards, whereas in a house the doors always swing inwards.
Another one is the requirement for hand basins in each room, and air conditioning. To become a commercial operation, we need air conditioning that provides for fresh air allowance. The building code doesn’t care whether you’re hot or cold, but it does care that you’ve got fresh air.